http://www.cla.umn.edu/jhopkins/ Taken together, twenty-four of these works constitute Nicholas of Cusa’s complete philosophical and theological treatises. They must be supplemented by studying his richly conceptual sermons, along with his ecclesiological and exegetical writings such as De Concordantia Catholica and Coniectura de Ultimis Diebus. His mathematical writings are also of interest, even though they are not of lasting importance, as Gottfried Leibniz rightly recognized.
In Reason, Tradition, and the Good, Jeffery L. Nicholas addresses the failure of reason in modernity to bring about a just society, a society in which people can attain fulfillment. Developing the critical theory of the Frankfurt School, Nicholas argues that we rely too heavily on a conception of rationality that is divorced from tradition and, therefore, incapable of judging ends. Without the ability to judge ends, we cannot engage in debate about the good life or the proper (...) goods that we as individuals and as a society should pursue. Nicholas claims that the project of enlightenment—defined as the promotion of autonomous reason—failed because it was based on a deformed notion of reason as mere rationality, and that a critical theory of society aimed at human emancipation must turn to substantive reason, a reason constituted by and constitutive of tradition. To find a reason capable of judging ends, Nicholas suggests, we must turn to Alasdair MacIntyre’s Thomistic-Aristotelianism. Substantive reason comprises thinking and acting on the set of standards and beliefs within a particular tradition. It is the impossibility of enlightenment rationality to evaluate ends and the possibility of substantive reason to evaluate ends that makes the one unsuitable and the other suitable for a critical theory of society. Nicholas’s compelling argument, written in accessible language, remains committed to the promise of reason to help individuals achieve a good and just society and a good life. This requires, however, a complete revolution in the way we approach social life. “Jeffery Nicholas has written an important and valuable book that invites its readers to discover the difficulties of late modern Western thought from the perspective of twentieth-century critical theory, and to consider a response to those difficulties drawn from the work of Alasdair MacIntyre and Charles Taylor.” —Christopher Stephen Lutz, Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology. (shrink)
Introduction: the question of reason -- The Frankfurt School critique of reason -- Habermas's communicative rationality -- Macintyre's tradition-constituted reason -- A substantive reason -- Beyond relativism: reasonable progress and learning from -- Conclusion: toward a Thomistic-Aristotelian critical theory of society.
I argue that we must read Alasdair MacIntyre’s mature work through a Marxist lens. I begin by discussing his argument that we must choose which God to worship on principles of justice, which, it turns out, are ones given to us by God. I contend that this argument entails that we must see Mac- Intyre’s early Marxist commitments as given to him by God, and, therefore, that he has never abandoned them in his turn to Thomistic-Aristotelianism. I examine his reading (...) of Marx, with its emphasis on the concept of alienation as a Christian concept, and explain how this reading differs from the dom- inant scientific-determinist reading of Marx. This examination then leads to a discussion of why MacIntyre abandoned both Marxism and Christian- ity in 1968. Finally, I turn to his more recent writing on Marx. I contend that if we view them through his argument about the principles of justice and which God to worship, we see MacIntyre’s mature philosophy as more Marxist than most people, perhaps even MacIntyre himself, would allow. (shrink)
Abstract Schlick quite clearly maintains that the shift from classical physics to the theories of relativity is not necessitated by experience, but motivated by the pragmatic payoff of simplifying space-time ontology. However, there is in his work another, heretofore unrecognized argument for the revolutionary shift from classical to relativistic physics. According to this conceptual line of argument, the principles that define simultaneity and motion in classical physics fail to establish a univocal correspondence to physical quantities, and therefore must be revised, (...) along with the notions of absolute space and time that they underpin. Though these insights appear only intermittently in Schlick’s work, I will seek to elaborate on them in an effort to clarify his views on conventions within physics and the nature of revolutionary science, and to suggest that these views are invulnerable to the criticisms of pragmatic empiricists such as Quine. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-17 DOI 10.1007/s12136-011-0131-3 Authors Steven Bland, Department of Philosophy, Huron University College, 1349 Western Rd, London, Ontario, Canada N6G 1H3 Journal Acta Analytica Online ISSN 1874-6349 Print ISSN 0353-5150. (shrink)
A beautifully executed limning of the men doing some of the freshest theological thinking today. With Bishop Robinson's Honest to God as his starting point, Mehta interviews Paul Tillich, Paul van Buren, Reinhold Niebuhr, Bishop Robinson, A. R. Vidler, H. A. Williams, Donald MacKinnon, A. M. Ramsey, I. T. Ramsey, Nicholas Stacey, Rudolf Bultmann, and Karl Barth. Almost half of the book is devoted to the portrait of Dietrich Bonhoeffer which emerges from Mehta's stay in Germany with Bonhoeffer's closest (...) friend, Pastor Eberhard Bethge. The book is reporting rather than a probing of the philosophic issues, but, taken as such, it constitutes a tantalizing gateway into a world in which insight, courage, honesty, and immense confusion flourish together like plants in an untended garden.—S. A. S. (shrink)
This article discusses how Nicholas of Cusa’s speculative philosophy harbors an ecumenical spirit that is deeply entwined and in tension with his commitment to incarnational mystical theology. On the basis of my discussion of this tension, I intend to show that Nicholas understands “faith” as a poietic activity whose legitimacy is rooted less in the independent veracity of the beliefs in question than in the potential of particular religious conventions to aid intellectual processes of self-interpretation. In undertaking this (...) analysis, the paper will use Nicholas of Cusa’s De pace fidei—whose overt intention is to show that all forms of religious practice presuppose the same universal faith—as an interpretive lens to explore implications of the philosophical anthropology that Nicholas offers in treatises such as De ludo globi and De venatione sapientiae. Thus, I will argue that Nicholas’ appreciation of the inevitability of religious diversity in the temporal world funds the consistently favored view in his speculative works that “faith” is a virtue only insofar as its adherent genuinely remains in search of understanding and that, consequently, religious beliefs should function as nothing more than tools for creative activity, interpretation, and inquiry. (shrink)
This paper explores Nicholas of Cusa’s framing of the De pace fidei as a dialogue taking place incaelo rationis. On the one hand, this framing allows Nicholas of Cusa to argue that all religious rites presuppose the truth of a single, unified faith and so temporally manifest divine logos in a way accommodated to the historically unique conventions of different political communities. On the other hand, at the end of the De pace fidei, the interlocutors in the heavenly (...) dialogue are enjoined to return to earth and lead their countrymen in a gradual conversion to the acceptance of rites which would explicitly acknowledge the metaphysically presupposed transcendent unity of all true faiths. In light of these two aspects of the literary framing of the De pace fidei, the question that motivates this paper concerns the extent to which the understanding of history subtending Cusanus’ temporal political aims is consistent with the understanding of history grounded in his metaphysical presupposition that there is una religio in omni diversitate rituum. In addressing this question, I shall argue that the literary strategy of the De pace fidei sacrifices Nicholas of Cusa’s apologetic doctrinal aims insofar as the text creates an allegorical space in which the tension between its literal and figurative dimensions assigns to its readers the task of choosing their own orientations to the significance of history as a foundation for future action. (shrink)
In the midst of the De pace fidei’s imagined heavenly conference on the theme of the possibility of religious harmony, Nicholas of Cusa has Saint Peter acknowledge to the Persian interlocutor that it will be difficult to bring Jews to the acceptance of Christ’s divine nature because they refuse to accept the implicit meaning of their own history of revelation. What is peculiar about this line in the dialogue is not merely that it flies in the face of what (...) Cusanus scholars tend to regard as an ecumenical spirit in Nicholas’ call to interreligious dialogue and mutual toleration. Rather, the statement reveals a peculiar hermeneutic principle at work in Nicholas’ understanding of the tension between truth and doctrine and the way that this tension informs human practice. Accordingly, by grappling with Nicholas’ portrayal of an imagined failure of Jews to practice interpretation correctly, I hope to shed light on Nicholas’ philosophy of religion in a way that neither ignores his anti-Judaism nor reduces the significance of his views to one of its most unpleasant manifestations. (shrink)
Previously, the author tried to show that some arguments in one of the two versions of Nicholas of Autrecourt’s Quaestio de intensione visionis are taken almost verbatim from the anonymous Tractatus de sex inconvenientibus. This paper concentrates on the arguments themselves in order to consider two main issues: the ‘translatability’ of limit decision problems, manifest in Autrecourt’s juxtaposition of questions de maximo et minimo, de primo et ultimo instanti, and the intension and remission of forms; the importance of Parisian (...) discussions of limit decision problems prior to the adoption of the new analytical languages developed at Oxford. Thus, the paper is divided in two sections, the first concerning some arguments of Autrecourt’s question, the second focusing on the link between one of Autrecourt’s arguments and the medieval tradition of commentaries on Aristotle’s De caelo, in which it is possible to find some antecedents of the analytical approach that later Parisian scholars would apply to these problems. (shrink)
According to Henri de Lubac's history of medieval exegesis, the fourteenth century marked the tipping point for the disintegration of history and allegory. The Postilla super totam bibliam of the Franciscan Nicholas of Lyra plays a prominent role in this declension narrative by ceding the “spirit” of interpretation to the separate discipline of theology, and opening the space for critical biblical studies to attain autonomy. But what if Nicholas of Lyra was on the other side of this history? (...) Arguing from the layout of early Postilla manuscripts and the institutional and manuscript culture of the fourteenth century, this article proposes that Nicholas's Postilla represents a vigorous and largely successful attempt to reintegrate Biblical text, historical scholarship, and theological exegesis. Nicholas's approach to the exegetical crises of his own day helps us to reassess the challenges and possibilities of theological exegesis today. (shrink)
The title of this present volume tends to be misleading. For it suggests that Nicholas’s didactic sermons are to be distinguished from his non-didactic ones—ones that are, say, more inspirational and less philosophical, or more devotional and less theological, or more situationally oriented and less Scripturally focused. Yet, in truth, all 293 of Nicholas’s sermons are highly didactic, highly pedagogical, highly exegetical.1 To be sure, there are inspirational and devotional elements; but they are subordinate to the primary purpose (...) of teaching. Likewise, only occasionally2 do the sermons show signs of addressing local circumstances that are idiosyncratic to the respective churches in Koblenz, Trier, Mainz, Augsburg, Frankfurt, Brixen, and Rome. Rather, their Scriptural focus more often than not yields up interpretations that are allegorical—or otherwise figurative—in a general way that allows Nicholas to draw inferences about the relationship between the intellect and the senses, about the unity of the virtues, the two natures in Christ, human freedom of will, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the inter-relationship of faith and reason, the triune nature of God, the role of conscience, the precepts of the natural law, time as the image of eternity, the four stages of a knowledge of God, Christ as Wisdom Incarnate, God as Beauty, the Holy Spirit as Love, … and so on. Each of the sermons contains more than one major theme, so that no sermon dwells at length upon a single topic so as to sound pedantic and inappropriately academic. On the contrary: in a limited measure Nicholas’s sermons tend to entice through their extensive display of original metaphor, of striking imagery, of fresh vocabulary, and of erudite knowledge of earlier writers such as Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Anselm, Albertus Magnus, and Meister Eckhart. (shrink)
Nicholas of Cusa’s deployment of an omnivoyant image in the De visione Dei has been said to deconstruct Leon Battista Alberti’s mathematical determination of space in single-point linear perspective. While there has been some debate over whether the omnivoyant functions like a medieval icon or instead like a Renaissance painting, what has been neglected is a more careful analysis of what underlies the very structure of omnivoyance, namely the milieu from which its contradictions and paradoxes emerge. In this article, (...) I will show how thinking the milieu of vision, implicit in Cusa’s optics, lets us overcome any overly simple binaries in these debates and deepen our understanding of the meaning of omnivoyance. (shrink)
This introduction sets the stage for four papers on Nicholas Wolterstorff's Justice: Rights and Wrongs , written by Harold Attridge, Oliver O'Donovan, Richard Bernstein, and myself. In his book, Wolterstorff defends an account of human rights. The first section of this introduction distinguishes Wolterstorff's account of rights from the alternative account of rights against which he contends. The alternative account draws much of its power from a historical narrative according to which theory and politics supplanted earlier ways of thinking (...) about justice. The second section sketches that narrative and Wolterstorff's counter-narrative. The third section draws together the main points of Wolterstorff's own account. (shrink)
The "System of Pragmatic Idealism" is of special importance for Nicholas Rescher's philosophical work, because here he has presented the systematic approach at once. Dedicated to his 70th birthday a group of European and U.S-american philosophers discuss the main topics of Rescher's philosophical system. The contributions which are presented here for the first time and Nicholas Rescher's responses cover the most important topics of philosophy and give a deep anddetailed insight into the strenght of Rescher's pragmatic idealism. This (...) volume is of interest for philosophers studying Rescher's philosophy and for all those who are interested in systematic philosophy and the vividnes of pragmatism and idealism in present philosophy. (shrink)
Three problems are raised for Nicholas Georgalis’s recent work: a problem with regard to the supposed noninferential knowledge of minimal content, a problem with the “necessary condition” Georgalis stipulates for the legitimate application of a first-person methodology to a science of the mind, and a problem with regard to denying phenomenal content to intentional acts.
The article discusses philosophical foundations of Nicholas Maxwell’s theory of scientific knowledge—Aim Oriented Empiricism. It is demonstrated that AOE evokes many illuminating, overshadowed by positivistic tradition, insights on the nature of cognition, language, and the relationship between philosophy and strict sciences. It corresponds with Jürgen Habermas’s theory of speech acts and R. G. Collingwood’s account of philosophical method. What calls serious doubts, though, is the very way in which Maxwell relates his conception to the project of wisdom society. It (...) is argued that while AOE considerably contributes to our understanding of science, wisdom and rationality, it nonetheless falls short of giving a convincing account of how the idea of wisdom society should be implemented. (shrink)
Nicholas Maxwell’s project, among others the character of its philosophical foundations, the notion of wisdom, and its radical post-Enlightenment scientism are discussed, and some doubts regard to it are presented. Above all, it is argued that Maxwell’s proposal of the establishing of world confederations of scientists standing above governments might lead to a totalitarian system.
Nicholas Oresme's mid-fourteenth-century treatise De moneta falls outside the conventional genres of late medieval scholastic writing: it is neither a commentary, a summa, nor a publicistic tract. Historians of political thought have largely shunned the work. Instead, De moneta has primarily been the object of attention among historians of economic thought. Despite the fact that De moneta certainly contains technical economic analysis of the nature of money in an Aristotelian mode, both the circumstances of its composition and the main (...) lines of its argument suggest that it deserves treatment as a profoundly political work. Oresme's intention is clearly to advise his countrymen in a pragmatic fashion about a matter of public policy. His specialized economic analysis is merely a propedeutic to his main point. In this sense, the political theory contained in De moneta merits serious attention as an attempt to bring economic concerns to bear on the duties of rulers and the needs of their subjects. (shrink)
When Ecce Homo was finally published in 1908, a New York Times reviewer declared that its “the most interesting portions... are those in which Nietzsche..., without delving into the depths of philosophy, shows himself primarily as a master of charming satirical prose”. The review largely consists of quotations in which Nietzsche satirizes, which is to say, mocks, Germans. The author apparently missed Nietzsche’s sarcastic report of another reviewer who characterized Thus Spoke Zarathustra “as an advanced exercise in style, and expressed (...) the wish that later on I might provide some content as well”. Over a century later, Nicholas D. More argues that Ecce... (shrink)
This contribution responds to Nicholas Wolterstorff’s argument for religious toleration and freedom of religion respectively that he develops in his paper ‘Toleration, justice and dignity’. I argue that Wolterstorff conflates religious toleration and the right to freedom of religion, which has problematic implications. Moreover, I reveal gaps in his justification of the special worth or dignity of human persons, and, derived from this, freedom of religion.
Nicholas Maxwell takes on the ambitious project of explaining, both epistemologically and metaphysically, the physical universe and human existence within it. His vision is appealing; he unites the physical and the personal by means of the concepts of aim and value, which he sees as the keys to explaining traditional physical puzzles. Given the current popularity of theories of goal-oriented dynamical systems in biology and cognitive science, this approach is timely. But a large vision requires firm and nuanced arguments (...) to support it. Here Maxwell's work is weakest; his arguments for contingent mind-body identity and for free will, on which his larger theory depends, are inadequate. The book is valuable both for its comprehensive view of the human condition and its mysteries, and for its demonstration of the difficulties in making such a view coherent. (shrink)
The immeasurable impact of Pascal is rarely appreciated or understood by contemporary thinkers. On the one hand, Pascal is lauded by literary critics for his writing style while his philosophical contributions are overlooked. On the other hand, Pascal is trivialized by analytic philosophers who view his wager argument as but a poor instance of decision theory. Nicholas Reseller's book is distinctive in that it takes Pascal seriously as a philosopher in light of past and present theological modes of argumentation. (...) As a distinguished historian of pragmatic philosophy, Rescher understands Pascal to be the great innovator of the major philosophical trends of our day: the theological use of practical reason, the diversity of modes of rationality, and the focus on praxis in contemporary hermeneutics. (shrink)
In Nicholas Wolterstorff’s ‘Toleration, Justice and Dignity’, he argues for tolerance between religious traditions on the basis of human dignity. In this response to his paper, I argue that a general philosophical argument from human dignity will at best lead to indifference or mere praise, but not true tolerance. In the second part of the paper, I offer a sketch of a distinctly Christian way of arguing for tolerance towards adherents of other religions, namely on the basis of the (...) insight that Christianity itself is a hybrid tradition. (shrink)
Nicholas Wolterstorff's Divine Discourse attempts to give philosophical warrant to the claim that ‘God speaks’. While Wolterstorff's argument depends largely on his appropriation of J.L. Austin's speech act theory, he also uses two narratives that for him demonstrate how ‘God speaks’. The first is the story of Augustine's conversion in the Confessions and the second is a story that Wolterstorff recounts about a certain ‘Virginia’. This study argues that what Wolterstorff claims to derive from Augustine's narrative for his view (...) of divine discourse is not fully supported by the Confessions, and that Augustine's interpretation of the words ‘tolle lege, tolle lege’, can be construed as a useful interpretation of an ambiguous sign. This is consistent with Augustine's understanding of the interpretation of texts in both the De doctrina christiana and the Confessions. In short, Augustine is far more open to the ambiguity of signs than Wolterstorffs's account suggests. (shrink)
Is there any such thing as the Cusan view of the relationship between faith and reason? That is, does Nicholas present us with clear concepts of fides and ratio and with a unique and consistent doctrine regarding their interconnection? If he does not, then the task before us is surely an impossible one: viz., the task of finding, describing, and setting in perspective a doctrine that never at all existed. For even with spectacles made of beryl stone or through (...) the looking glass of Lewis Carroll, we could not descry the totally nonexistent. Four lines of argument purport to show that the task before us is fundamentally impossible. 1. First of all, it may be argued (a) that Nicholas of Cusa can have a coherent doctrine of faith and reason only if he has a generally coherent theory of knowledge and (b) that since his theory of knowledge is generally incoherent, so too must be the aforesaid doctrine, which is an intrinsic part of the theory of knowledge. Let us grant—for the sake of the argument—the disputable logic of this reasoning, and let us focus on the question of whether Nicholas does or does not have a viable general theory of knowledge. Many philosophers judge the theory to be unviable. For example, the philosopher Hans Blumenberg writes: “I will not make what I believe would have to be a futile attempt at a unitary interpretation of the Cusan theory of knowledge. Here in particular the inner consistency of his philosophical accomplishment is doubtful. The reason for this can be specified: it lies, again, in the inability to deal with or successfully to evade the consequences of nominalism.”2 Other philosophers are quick to agree that Cusa’s epistemology consists of a host of glaring contradictions: Cusa’s theory of representative perception is said to be incompatible with his doctrine of homo mensura—i.e., with his doctrine that man is the measure of the reality that is perceived and conceived by him. Cusa’s notion that empirical concepts are abstracted from perceptual and imaginative images is asserted to be contradicted by his further claim that all concepts are derived a pri- ori from the mind itself.. (shrink)
In their commentaries on Peter of Spain’s texts, two professors at the University of Cracow, John of Glogovia and Michael of Biestrzykowa, provided interpretations of consequences and conditional propositions which either rejected the paradoxes of strict implication or placed on them such restrictions as to challenge traditional views about the relation between antecedent and consequent. Nicholas Copernicus may have been inflenced by those discussions.
This book presents, in one single volume, the first cogent overview of Nicholas Rescher's position in theoretical philosophy. Marsonet's wide ranging knowledge of American philosophy enables him to position Rescher's work in the wider setting of its relationships with various contemporary American and European thinkers.
The System of Pragmatic Idealism is of special importance for Nicholas Rescher's philosophical work, because here he has presented the systematic approach at once. Dedicated to his 70th birthday a group of European and U.S-american philosophers discuss the main topics of Rescher's philosophical system. The contributions which are presented here for the first time and Nicholas Rescher's responses cover the most important topics of philosophy and give a deep and detailed insight into the strenght of Rescher's pragmatic idealism. (...) This volume is of interest for philosophers studying Rescher's philosophy and for all those who are interested in systematic philosophy and the vividnes of pragmatism and idealism in present philosophy. (shrink)
In response to the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Nicholas of Cusa wrote De pace fidei defending a commitment to religious tolerance on the basis of the notion that all diverse rites are but manifestations of one true religion. Drawing on a discussion of why Nicholas of Cusa is unable to square the two objectives of arguing for pluralistic tolerance and explaining the contents of the one true faith, we outline why theological pluralism is compromised by its own (...) meta-exclusivism. (shrink)
For the last several decades, philosophers have wrestled with the proper place of religion in liberal societies. Usually, the debates among these philosophers have started with the articulation of various conceptions of liberalism and then proceeded to locate religion in the context of these conceptions. In the process, however, too little attention has been paid to the way religion is conceived. Drawing on the work of Robert Audi and Nicholas Wolterstorff, two scholars who are often read as holding opposing (...) views on these issues, I argue that, for the purposes of their argument about liberalism, both have implicitly accepted a concept of religion that has come under severe attack in recent work on the subject. Namely, they have accepted a concept of religion that identifies religion primarily with belief, ritual practice, and ecclesial institutions. Following recent scholarship, I suggest that religion is better conceived as a kind of culture. To conclude the essay, I gesture toward what the beginnings of a re-visioned debate about religion and liberal society might look like if one started from this revised conception of religion. (shrink)
In this paper I want to discuss David Hume's views about morals, politics and citizenship and the role of philosophers and philosophizing in modern civil society - what I shall call his theory of civic morality. This is a subject which has been neglected by philosophers, presumably because it is of limited philosophical interest. But it is of considerable interest to the historian who wants to understand Hume's development as a philosopher, to locate his thought within a specific, Scottish context (...) and to arrive at some understanding of his surprisingly close and cordial relations with the literary and social world of enlightened Edinburgh. These are large claims and I cannot hope to substantiate them fully in a short paper. My purpose is first, to show that, historically speaking, Hume's preoccupation with civic morality was of central rather than peripheral interest to him as a philosopher and that it helps to explain his otherwise rather puzzling decision to give up philosophizing systematically in the manner of Hobbes and Locke, in favour of polite essay-writing in the manner of Addison and Steele. My second purpose is to suggest that Hume's interest in civic morality, his neo-Addisonian mode of philosophizing about it and the nature of his understanding of politics, citizenship and philosophizing in a modern age was, unlike his thought about religion, responsive to and consonant with some of the most important ideological preoccupations of his Scottish contemporaries. It was, I suspect, a shared interest which helped to contain some of the anxieties Hume's notorious religious scepticism caused his contemporaries. Without it, he could not possibly have emerged as one of the leaders of Edinburgh's intellectual life in the age of the Scottish Enlightenment. (shrink)
Years ago I was set to spend a full weekend in my apartment, as it was forecast to snow outside. I decided that I needed some good reading to keep me company. I had heard of something called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979), which was supposed to be clever and funny. It was, and I’ve never traveled without a towel since. ...
ABSTRACTThe latest draft of UNESCO's proposed Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights is a major disappointment. The committee of government ‘experts’ that produced it made sure that it would not introduce any new obligations for States, and so the document simply restates existing agreements and lists desirable goals without specifying how they can be achieved. This article focuses on the shortcomings of the document as it would apply to health care. These shortcomings are evident in the document's scope, aims (...) and principles. The conclusion is that if UNESCO still thinks that such a declaration is needed, it should produce either an ethical document addressed to individuals and groups, which would be primarily educational in nature, or a legal document addressed to States, which should not have the word ‘ethics’ in its title. (shrink)